Saturday, February 18, 2006

1988 Topps #468

When this author was but 11 or 12, his father took him, his younger brother and his then-best friend to a Phillies game at Veterans Stadium, a concrete coliseum that resembled a cross between a toilet bowl and an unflushed toilet bowl with humongous turds floating in it. The Phillies of those years were, of course, those turds. However, no one sucked worse than Darren Daulton, whose abysmal sublevels of suckitude were so legendary in Philadelphia that they were almost unimaginable. No one could possibly suck this bad and still be good enough to be on a non-Philadelphian major league roster. In 1985, he batted .201. He made progress in 1986 by batting .225, only to undo such improvement by batting .194 the next year. In 1988 and 1989, he batted .208 and .201 respectively but suddenly, he took a giant step forward in 1990 with a very unDutch-like line of .268/.367/.416. These numbers for a catcher would be much more appreciated in the Moneyball era of the now but he sucked anyway. Almost as if he were trying to prove that he sucked, he went back to batting .196 the following year.

But in 1992, something amazing happened. Right before our very eyes, Dutch not only stopped sucking but became a great player; one of the best catchers in the game. To this day, I don't know what happened that offseason. Maybe he caught onto to the benefits of exercise and nutrition a bit earlier than everybody else. Maybe he starting eating Wheaties. Maybe he starting eating steroids. But Dutch clubbed 27 home runs, became only the 4th catcher in Baseball history to lead the league in RBI and his fantastic .908 OPS was 4th-best in the National League. He repeated such success the next year and part of a pretty good (if slightly flukish) line-up of Phillie hitters that went to the World Series. He became a three-time All Star, helped the Florida Marlins win a ring by hitting .389/.455/.667 in the 1997 World Series and from a performance/position perspective, was one of the most valuable players in the game during his prime. He even married a one-time Hooters spokeslady, which is more than enough to make any man feel redeemed for batting .194. Perhaps no one in the history of any sport has salvaged the suckiness of his career as well as Darren Daulton did.

But while reversing his own fortunes is admirable, he has been arrested several times for DUI, speeding, refusing to take a Breathalyzer test, failing to appear in court and for beating his poor wife. I mean, isn't it bad enough that she wasn't blessed with the smarts to not work at Hooters? Which brings me to the point I've been digressing from since the second sentence of this post. Coming home from
John Kruk's bachelor party one night, he and Lenny Dykstra drunkenly wrapped a car around a tree. Sometime shortly before that aforementioned game my father took us to, the three of us were walking the complete circle (much like turds whirlpooling down a toilet) above the 300 level of the stadium and came across the bullpen where Dutch was warming up one of their crappy pitchers. With my kid brother in tow, my friend and I leaned over the railing, got his attention and shouted, "Friends don't let friends drink and drive!" Dutch promptly chucked a rosin bag at us but not before we were able to run like hell and self-congratulatory laugh our fools heads off over our ingenious wit. It is a story I have nostalgically repeated numerously ever since and I was shocked to find this article from Sports Illustrated. I am disappointed to report that it was not a rosin bag Darren threw at our heads but rather:
...just a mirage of innumerable particles constantly speeding up or slowing down. But the Fourth and Fifth Dimensions remain unseen by most people. Their vibrations are at a lower frequency.
I mean, wow. So if a tree falls and no one hears it, does it make a sound? If that rosin bag ended up hitting one of us, would we have been hurt? If a man hits .194 and every newspaper reports that it happened as millions of people witnessed it, did it really happen after all? Say what you will about Daulton becoming Baseball's answer to Tom Cruise but frankly, I think this article explains a lot. If you don't believe me, scroll back up and look at his baseball card from 1988, particularly the top left-hand side. Where is the rest of the bat? I always thought it was accidentally airbrushed by some hack intern in the Topps art department or maybe Dutch had been hitting with only half a bat for the first half of his career before he realized he could triple his home run total by hitting the same way everyone else does. This has been bothering the hell out of me for 17 years but now I see because all this time, I wasn't using my sixth sense and my vibration was at a lower frequency. The rest of the bat just isn't fucking there.

I don't know what to believe anymore.

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